Skip to main content

Full text of "My country and my people"

See other formats

STORY   OF   THE   S I N O - J A P A N E S E   WAR       33!
s?ifed a new vision and his imagination was set free and inspired. Tales perhaps more marvellous than those brought back to Europe by Marco Polo about Cathay, or those brought back by Columbus about the Indians,, were told of a new world, a new civilization and new races of men, who had telescopes and priests, gunboats and cathedrals, trains and public parks, libraries and museums, cameras and newspapers. Tales, too, of beef-eating, butter-smelling men with hair on their chests and golden-haired, blue-eyed and indecently dressed women. But tales, also, of republics and parliaments and constitutions, of liberty and equality, of government of the people, by the people and for the people. Lastly, tales of devilish weapons of destruction, incomparably superior to any China had known.
China, therefore, for the first time saw a strange, new civilization different from her own, from which she had things to learn. But China was in an isolationist mood, being economically and spiritually self-sufficient. Her bulk, her geographical position and the consciousness of a proud civilization and culture made her slow to learn from the West. The Chinese people saw the white man as scientist-engineer, soldier, and preacher, and only a few saw him as a teacher of new ideas. They admired the white man as scientist and in this sense /'scientist9* chiefly meant the maker of attractive gadgets of extreme beauty and ingenuity, like a watch. They looked askance at the warlike soldier, but bothered little about him; it was inconceivable that the white man could ever overthrow their empire, and nothing was done about it. The intellectual Chinese rather sneered at the preacher of a foreign religion, both because they had just as good miracles, faith cures, virgin births, transfigurations, ascensions and hell and heaven in Taoism and Buddhism, and because it was somewhat ridiculous for the white man to come and preach peace and humility and non-resistance to the peaceful, humble and never-resisting Chinese, particularly when the preacher was backed at every step by gunboats.
But the western civilization was, besides other things, also a system of ideas, and the power of ideas was greater than the power of gunboats. While European gunboats attacked the Tangku Fort at Tientsin, and the Allied Troops marched on